With their agonising defeat in the 2015 Brutal Fruit Netball Cup promotion match now a distant memory, KwaZulu-Natal netball team Kingdom Stars has been hard at work preparing for their assault on the larger, more competitive 2016 edition which gets underway with an opening clash against the Eastern Cape Aloes this weekend.
The team has been training hard at their base at Prime Human Performance Institute and, through their involvement in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation backed Elite Athlete Development Programme, the team is in the right space going into the third edition of the tournament.
The Kingdom Stars were voted the fittest team at the 2015 edition of the tournament and will be looking to continue that level of preparation and with some match-winners amongst them, they hope to challenge even some of the stronger teams in this year’s tournament.
“Everything has gone according to plan for us in the build-up to our opening match this weekend,” coach Marchelle Maroun said. “We are probably going into this game as prepared as we will ever be and the girls are really excited to get the competition underway.”
“Everyone got a short break after the tournament last year but they have been working really hard with the team since coming then and are extremely grateful for the opportunity that they have received to continue as part of the EADP!”
The integration of the first and second divisions into a single, larger group of teams for this year’s extended tournament has seen the Kingdom Stars get in some additional personnel to strengthen their squad.
“We have gained two very exciting players in Elsje du Plessis and Phumza Maweni. Both are South African representatives which now takes us to four national players.
“This experience can only boost the other girls as it adds another competitive element to selection for match-day squads as well as to the starting line-up!
“We have had a look at the Aloes team and it doesn’t seem to be too different from the one that we played against last year. We are looking forward to the game and ending what has been a busy and long pre-season,” an expectant Maroun added.
On top of their stringent preparation at Prime HPI, Maroun has also called in outside help to get the side mentally prepared for what will be a challenging tournament.
“We changed our preparation a bit this year and I really wanted to focus on getting the girls mentally prepared for the tournament.
“We have been working closely with psychologist Kirsten van Heerden, trying to get the girls into the correct head space.
“She has been with us for a while and she is really trying to instil a great team spirit amongst the girls which will hopefully also help translate into strong performances on the court,” the coach explained.
With matches against the top netball teams in the country coming up, the Kingdom Stars have shown a great will to challenge these powerhouse teams and push for top honours throughout their pre-season.
“The commitment that the girls have shown has been incredible but they also know that they have to step up this season – it’s a completely different game now!
“They have said from the start that they don’t want to just participate and make up numbers, they really want to be competitive against the best sides in the cup.
“If it wasn’t for the EADP and the staff at Prime helping us with conditioning I don’t think we would be nearly as prepared as we are,” a grateful Maroun confessed.
More information can be found at www.eadp.co.za
Kingdom Stars Squad v Eastern Cape Aloes:
Bongiwe Msomi (C), Nothando Mthembu (VC), Michelle Segal, Zanele Gumede, Elsje Susanna Du Plessis, Nonhlanhla Shezi, Fezeka Gambushe, Kalipa Gibisela, Luleka Ndyibithi, Mandisa Hlela, Dolly Mavumengwana, Phumza Charmaine Maweni,
Coach: Marchelle Maroun, Manager: Phindile thusini, Asst Coach: Nonjabulo Mtshali, Physio: Nande G Mjajubana.